The International Cheer Union (ICU) glossary defines prone as a chest down, flat body position. Landing in prone is a dismount where the top is released, or connection might be maintained with a hand on foot/ankle hold, the bases throw the flyer upward and then the flyer is caught in the chest down, flat body position, chin up, arms are out to the side making a ‘t’ position. Picture that, and imagine the courage it takes to let your body fly free, descending, looking forward with your arms outstretched.
Landing in prone would be a “hard skill” first introduced in Level 2. Besides the technical details of the vault, the holds and the catch, the most essential ingredient to perform the skill is courage.
Courage is such a big topic. Courage is a product of other life skills as well as being a life skill in itself. Caitlyn Nelson of Cheer Factory/The Cheer Forge reflects, “When I am coaching athletes, it is not only about the courage to fall and be caught, or to perform skills at height. It also takes courage to have difficult conversations, to talk about why the stunt is not hitting, or finding out what you need to change to make the stunt hit. Courage is also being willing to be on the competition mat knowing that you will performing under the big lights.”
Every athlete is “out there” for all to see. There will be video and photos posted on facebook. There is the chance for a great photo, but also an ugly facial or an ugly fall can be captured forever.
Courage is required for all types of performance in life. Performing a cheerleading routine is preparation for performing in a job interview and performing in roles like work, volunteering, and public speaking.
For coaches, courage can be strengthened by mentioning small acts of courage and encouraging athletes to be aware of using courage to overcome fear. Success breeds courage to try the next challenge.
Safe catching drills are often used as a strategy to teach courage. The focus of the drill is not to hit the skill, but to give all members of the stunt group practice catching. Falls will happen, so safe catching drills build trust among team members and bolster the courage of the flyer.